Photos courtesy of Thomas E. Franklin of The Record newspaper of Bergen County, NJ.
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September 11, 2001: What They Did That Day

What they did that day.

They started out their day as usual. They woke up, said goodbye to their loved ones, and left for work. They drove themselves, took public transportation, and boarded airplanes to take them on vacation, business, or just to get home. How could they ever imagine they’d never come home or reach their destinations?

What they did that day.

New York’s Bravest rushed to the Towers to control the fires. They ran inside while most ran out. They went in to save those still trapped and became trapped themselves. Many never made it out.

What they did that day.

New York’s Finest, trained to protect and serve, did just that. They too rushed to the Towers. They protected as best as they could, but in the end, they too became trapped. Many of them didn’t make it out either.

What they did that day.

They were on the scene within hours of the attacks. Nearly 300 specially-trained dogs experienced not only in search and rescue, but also in police work and therapy. As only they could, these four-legged heroes gave unconditional comfort to those deeply affected by this tragedy 

What they did that day.

They treated the wounded and the dying, and treated those who came to help. From the EMTs and paramedics first on the scene, to the medical personnel in hospitals and clinics, to the veterinarians who treated the search and therapy dogs — these angels on Earth worked tirelessly and selfishly to save all they could and to reassure those tasked with dealing with the aftermath of the attacks. 

What they did that day.

They did what they could at the Pentagon, that structural oddity with four walls and a spare. They blasted a hole in her side, but she remained intact. Just like the resilience of America.

What they did that day.

When they realized they were in trouble, passengers on a plane took action, and with the words “let’s roll,” they tried to overpower their captors. They fought valiantly with their lives and probably saved the White House from destruction.

What they did that day.

They, who so proudly serve our country at home and abroad, went on alert, ready to do what needed to be done to defend America and our way of life.

What they did that day.

They came to help in any way they could. They searched the rubble, they brought food, clothes, and compassion. They brought shoulders to lean on, to cry on, or to offer strength. They donated their time, money, and their blood. They steadfastly tended to those needing medical attention, comfort, and encouragement.

What they did that day.

They watched and listened in shock and disbelief to the TV coverage and radio broadcasts. All eyes were on the horrors taking place in New York City, NY, Arlington, VA/Washington, D.C., and Stoneycreek Township, PA. The world was afraid and heart-broken. After all, if it could happen there, it could happen anywhere. The desire to do something was strong so the world did the only thing they could do. They watched. They listened. They cried. And they prayed. 

What they did that day.

Three firemen, at what was Ground Zero, raised a flag. They also raised the spirit of America, the determination to go on, and the resolve not to let the terrorists win. Their message was clear — America was still here and would prevail.

What they did that day.

They changed America. They tried to destroy her, but only succeeded in bringing her together. They removed distinctions between geographical regions, social, class, and political divisions, and race. They made an America, horrified by their evil, unimaginable acts, stand up and unite. They made us reach out to each other, appreciate what we have, and not take things for granted. They turned ordinary people, by their grace, courage and selfless acts, into heroes truly worthy of the word. They made us examine our personal beliefs toward religion, politics, and prejudice. They changed America. 

September 11, 2001, will never, and should never, be forgotten. But until we learn to live without hate, we haven’t really changed. When the sun set that night, America was as it should be — united. We owe it to those who lost their lives, those who survived, and the rest of us to stay united. That can be our tribute to them and their legacy to us — a united America.

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Written by Mimi Bosarge

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